Rex Ryan gushes about moving safety Antonio Allen to cornerback

Jets free safety Antonio Allen (39) tackles Indianapolis Jets free safety Antonio Allen (39) tackles Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers (16) in the second quarter of a preseason game, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. Photo Credit: AP / Frank Franklin II

advertisement | advertise on newsday

CORTLAND, N.Y. - No cornerbacks? No problem, said Rex Ryan.

To offset the mounting injuries within his secondary, the Jets' coach moved third-year safety Antonio Allen to the outside corner position Monday.

The decision came 24 hours after Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle went down with injuries, but Ryan said the position switch wasn't done completely out of necessity.

"He's just a baller," Ryan said of Allen, who played opposite Ellis Lankster while Kyle Wilson worked in the slot. "When he was in college, the kid made a zillion plays."

The move yielded positive results as Allen made two interceptions in team drills, but Ryan isn't sure it's a permanent solution to the Jets' cornerback woes.

"We'll see," he said. "The experiment is going to be like anything else, it's to find any combination of your best players on the field . . . So for us, he has kind of been in our back pocket. He has Pro Bowl ability, but he can also play corner."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Ryan laid it on pretty thick while talking about Allen. He said Allen, who was used as a hybrid linebacker/safety at South Carolina, "might have been the best player" on a defense that featured Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram and Stephon Gilmore.

"One thing you can't take away from him is, he's coachable and he's a football player," Ryan said of Allen, adding that the 2012 seventh-rounder was "a steal."

"He's got great instincts and all that,'' Ryan said, "so we're like: 'Let's just put him out there some [at corner].' "

Ryan initially tried to downplay the idea that Allen's position change was a result of losing Milliner and McDougle. "No, we knew it was on the back burner," he said. "Was it driven through the three cornerbacks being out? Probably."

Dimitri Patterson, Jeremy Reeves and Johnny Patrick also are nursing injuries. And as a result, the coaching staff is trying out different packages for different players, cornerback Darrin Walls said.

Asked about Allen playing a new position, secondary coach Tim McDonald said: "It's not something that's permanent, but it's something we're taking a look at . . . He's talented."

Allen's playing time took a huge hit when Ed Reed first arrived as a free agent last season, but Ryan credited Allen with doing a solid job against tight ends Jimmy Graham of New Orleans and Rob Gronkowski of New England. Allen even picked off Tom Brady to help the Jets earn a 30-27 win in Week 7.

You also may be interested in: